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June 10, 2014 at 12:12 PM

E3: Nintendo roars back with Wii U slate, Zelda, figurines

LOS ANGELES — Perhaps Nintendo was just trying to give Sony and Microsoft a head start on the next console generation. Or maybe it just took longer than expected to fill the pipeline of games for its Wii U console.

WiiU_HyruleWarriors_scrn01_E3

Either way the storied game company today released a wide range of new games that could revive interest in its struggling platform, particularly among devotees of classic Nintendo franchises, such as “Zelda,” that are being reworked for the more powerful and connected platform.

Dozens of games coming to the Wii U in 2014 and 2015 were announced, implying that Nintendo and outside studios still have hope for the platform. Since it’s launch in 2012 the Wii U has failed to ignite as much interest as the original Wii and lately it’s been overshadowed by the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

With high-definition graphics and variety of control options, the Wii U was designed to run the blockbuster action games, as well as family-friendly fare. But the biggest action games coming out this fall, including the next installment of the “Call of Duty” franchise, are sticking to the Xbox and PlayStation this time around.

Nintendo investors — including shareholders and parents of Nintendo-playing kids — may be more interested in a new line of game accessory figurines called “amiibo,” which are going on sale in the holiday season. The miniature models of such characters as Mario connect to a previously unused NFC reader on the Wii U Gamepad controller to enhance gameplay, starting this year with “Super Smash Bros.”

cropped nint

The amiibo are Nintendo’s answer to the hugely popular Skylanders and Disney Infinity games that pair games with figurines sold as accessories and upgrades. Skylanders has generated more than $2 billion in sales since the franchise was launched in 2011.

“Nintendo has always represented a unique source of video game entertainment for the widest range of gamers,” Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Redmond-based Nintendo of America, said in a release. “We create timeless games with twists and turns that provide hours of enjoyment for fans of all ages, and this year with the introduction of amiibo, we’re pushing the creative envelope forward in compelling new ways.”

Fils-Aime also took a new approach to E3 this year, skipping the traditional press conference and choosing to streaming announcements online instead. The company still has a large booth on the show floor.

Gamers at the show — many of whom grew up playing Nintendo games — seemed particularly enthused about a high-fidelity version of “Zelda” coming next year that includes a more open landscape to explore:

WiiU_Zelda_scrn01_E3

Also scheduled to arrive next year are games that take more advantage of the Wii U’s Gamepad. They include “Mario Maker,” a game that lets players create playable levels for a “Mario” game using the Gamepad’s touchscreen; “Star Fox,” a new version of a classic flying game that uses the Wii U Gamepad to display the view from inside the cockpit and control flight by moving the controller around; and “Project Giant Robot,” a game in which players build robots with the Gamepad and then use it as a cockpit when they battle opponents.

The Gamepad is also used to navigate and aim in “Splatoon,” a wacky action game coming in 2015 in which players “spray ink on the ground around them while blotting out the opposing team members in turf war competitions,” Nintendo said in its release. “Each character can turn into a squid-like character and swim through his or her own team’s ink — gliding up and down walls and under floors — with ease.”

WiiU_Splatoon_scrn01_E3

This year’s launches include the Sept. 26 release “Hyrule Warriors” which combines the high-res Zelda with “Dynasty Warriors” in a “hack and slash” adventure game. It’s pictured at the top of this post.

RELATED:

Photos from E3 2014

Sony touts Destiny, PlayStation lineup, GTA V, PS TV

New Xbox boss on beating Sony, virtual reality and the missing Kinect

Microsoft reveals next phase of Xbox

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